Chicago Bears tease Arlington Heights move

New home could host more than just a stadium

Chicago Bears tease Arlington Heights move
Chicago Bears Chairman George McCaskey and president/CEO Ted Phillips and Arlington Park (Getty, Chicago Bears)

With the 2021 NFL season in the books for the Chicago Bears, team chairman George McCaskey and president/CEO Ted Phillips on Monday turned an eye to the future – one that might see the Monsters of the Midway leave their longtime home at Soldier Field.

In their first press conference in almost a year, Phillips hinted that if the team closes on the 326-acre former racetrack site in Arlington Heights they signed a purchase agreement for in September, the location could be home to much more than just a stadium, according to the Chicago Sun Times. The pending acquisition of the property from Churchill Downs is worth $197.2 million.

‘‘There’s nothing else like it in Chicagoland,’’ Phillips was reported saying. ‘‘So the opportunities — you know, we haven’t even begun to envision what it could be. But we’re hopeful, if we close, that we’ll be moving forward with turning it into a wonderful destination site.”

He went on to describe the site as a potential “entertainment destination with multiple facets,” suggesting that the site could host additional amenities, such as restaurants and bars.

Monday’s statements about Arlington Heights came on the same day the team announced it had fired Head Coach Matt Nagy and General Manager Ryan Pace. The Bears, who finished 6-11 this season, have posted only two winning seasons in the last 10 years and haven’t won a playoff game since 2010.

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The decision to possibly move the team away from Soldier Field, a 61,500 seat lakeside stadium near Chicago’s downtown, is the result of a controversy between the Bears and the Chicago Park District, which owns the stadium.

The announcement has stirred controversy among fans and attracted attention from city officials, including Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who previously said the city would not release the team from its lease at Soldier Field just because ownership is dissatisfied with it. The Bears’ lease at Soldier Field isn’t up until 2033 and breaking it could cost the team $84 million.

Despite a $660 million renovation in 2003, $432 million of which was covered by taxpayers, Soldier Field has the smallest capacity of all NFL stadiums, according to the Chicago Tribune.

But nothing is set in stone–yet. It will still take roughly a year for escrow on the purchase of Arlington Heights to close, according to the Sun Times.

[Chicago Sun Times] – Harrison Connery

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